Monday 25 March 2019

Pamuk, Orhan "The New Life"

Pamuk, Orhan "The New Life" (Turkish: Yeni Hyat) - 1994

I've said it before, I'll say it again, Orhan Pamuk is one of my favourite authors. He never fails to surprise.

In this novel, the protagonist reads a book. Sounds familiar?

Now, even reading a brilliant book doesn't mean it will change your entire life. But in this case, it does. Osman is a student in Istanbul. He gives up his studies, leaves his family and friend behind and goes on a long journey through Turkey with no destiny or motive.

It's not just the story itself that's so fascinating, it's the way the author tells it. He has a special way of describing people and situations, the story unfolds in quite a unique way, it's full of symmetry. His puns and allusions to life in Turkey are so Interesting. He is one of their most important authors.

I am looking forward to his next novels.

From the back cover:

"'I read a book one day, and my whole life was changed.'

So begins The New Life, Orhan Pamuk's fabulous road novel about a young student who yearns for the life promised by a dangerously magical book. He falls in love, abandons his studies, turns his back on home and family, and embarks on restless bus trips through the provinces, in pursuit of an elusive vision. This is a wondrous odyssey, laying bare the rage of an arid heartland. In coffee houses with black-and-white TV sets, on buses where passengers ride watching B-movies on flickering screens, in wrecks along the highway, in paranoid fictions with spies as punctual as watches, the magic of Pamuk's creation comes alive."

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

Orhan Pamuk received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2005.

You can read more about the books I read by one of my favourite authors here.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Friday 22 March 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well." Mark Haddon

"Books are a uniquely portable magic." Stephen King

"One of the greatest gifts adults can give - to their offspring and to their society - is to read to children." Carl Sagan

"Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river." Virginia Woolf

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 21 March 2019

Achebe, Chinua "Things Fall Apart"

Achebe, Chinua "Things Fall Apart" (The African Trilogy #1) - 1958

A story about Nigeria just after the arrival of the first European colonists in the late nineteenth century.

I haven't read many African novels but this is by far the best one to portray African culture and what Europeans have done to them through their colonies. Okonkwo and his village live a perfectly good life with their tribes, tradition, religion, work and family life. And then the European missionaries arrive and tell them that everything they've done so far is wrong and force them into changes that none of them really wants.

What would we think if someone from another continent came and told us that our religion is wrong, the way we live is wrong, the way we work is wrong, that we are a failure altogether? They alienate our children, our partners, question our education system, the way we build our houses, organize our society.

We must not like Okonkwo in order to understand that colonialism was just wrong. This is no way to help another nation, another culture, it's just a way to destroy it and the lives of those that live it.

A great book that I would recommend to everyone who is interested in other cultures, even or especially if they don't exist like this anymore.

This is the first story of the author's "African Trilogy". "No longer at Ease" and "Arrow of God" are the follow-up novels.

From the back cover:

"Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a 'strong man' of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries.

These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul."

Chinua Achebe received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2002.

Chinua Achebe received the Man Booker International Prize in 2007 because he "illuminated the path for writers around the world seeking new words and forms for new realities and societies".

Monday 18 March 2019

Biden, Joe "Promise Me, Dad"

Biden, Joe "Promise Me, Dad. A year of hope, hardship, and purpose" - 2017

Joe Biden is an amazing man. First, he brought up two children after the loss of their mother and little sister and found the strength to enter political life, not in order to be admired but truly to serve others. That surely tells you everything. Then he enters one of the most powerful and stressful jobs and has to see how his son slowly but surely loses his life. And he still stays strong and does his duty. What a guy! I am not surprised one of the greatest presidents ever chose him as his vice.

As in Michelle Obama's book "Becoming", we follow the relationship between the Biden and Obama family and see what a special kind of bond there is between them. They are both decent families who love their children and want them to grow up in a better society.

Beau Biden's illness was described in such a sensitive way, his father admired him for all he did and how strong he stayed by going through such an ordeal. It was sad and heartbreaking but it was also possible to see the strength it gave them, how it welded them together, how they all learned from each other. Such a wonderful family, such a wonderful man.

What a shame he gave up running for president. He would have been a great incumbent!

Looking forward to more books by Joe Biden, maybe another one about his relationship with Barack Obama?

From the back cover:

"A deeply moving memoir about the year that would forever change both a family and a country.

In November 2014, thirteen members of the Biden family gathered on Nantucket for Thanksgiving, a tradition they had been celebrating for the past forty years; it was the one constant in what had become a hectic, scrutinized, and overscheduled life. The Thanksgiving holiday was a much-needed respite, a time to connect, a time to reflect on what the year had brought, and what the future might hold. But this year felt different from all those that had come before. Joe and Jill Biden's eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor fifteen months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. 'Promise me, Dad,' Beau had told his father. 'Give me your word that no matter what happens, you're going to be all right.' Joe Biden gave him his word.

Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden's extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq. When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad -- Joe, I need your help -- he responded. For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016.

The year brought real triumph and accomplishment, and wrenching pain. But even in the worst times, Biden was able to lean on the strength of his long, deep bonds with his family, on his faith, and on his deepening friendship with the man in the Oval Office, Barack Obama.

Writing with poignancy and immediacy, Joe Biden allows readers to feel the urgency of each moment, to experience the days when he felt unable to move forward as well as the days when he felt like he could not afford to stop.

This is a book written not just by the vice president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband. Promise Me, Dad is a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future."

Friday 15 March 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"You’re a reader as well as a writer, so write what you’d want to read." Cassandra Clare 

"Hold a book in your hand and you're a pilgrim at the gates of a new city." Hebrew saying, from Anne Michaels "Fugitive Pieces"

"It's one of the ultimate escapes. You can forget where you are and who you are. There have been times I've gone to Middle-earth and Hogwarts and Narnia in my head just to survive… Everyone should have that blessed escape." Ruby *

"Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world." Malala Yousafzai  

Find more book quotes here.

* [If anyone can tell me the full name of the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.] 

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Sparks, Nicholas "The Notebook"

Sparks, Nicholas "The Notebook" - 2004

I've had this book on my TBR pile for quite a while, actually, since it was suggested for our book club and given to me by a member who left and didn't want to take it along. So, more than ten years. I must admit, I was reluctant to read it since it seems very much like chick lit to me. It was made into a movie - and I haven't watched that, either.

All in all, it was an alright story, not as bad as I imagined but not much better, either. A love story, poor boy loves rich girl and all the obstacles that there are in these kinds of novels which you know they will overcome. There is a twist at the end but that doesn't really make up for the kind of writing that is more destined to those who look for "easy reads".

Most probably the only book I will ever read by Nicholas Sparks.

From the back cover:

"Every so often a love story so captures our hearts that it becomes more than a story-it becomes an experience to remember forever. The Notebook is such a book. It is a celebration of how passion can be ageless and timeless, a tale that moves us to laughter and tears and makes us believe in true love all over again...

At thirty-one, Noah Calhoun, back in coastal North Carolina after World War II, is haunted by images of the girl he lost more than a decade earlier. At twenty-nine, socialite Allie Nelson is about to marry a wealthy lawyer, but she cannot stop thinking about the boy who long ago stole her heart. Thus begins the story of a love so enduring and deep it can turn tragedy into triumph, and may even have the power to create a miracle..."

Monday 11 March 2019

Fredriksson, Marianne "The Book of Eve"

Fredriksson, Marianne "The Book of Eve" (Swedish: Evas bok) (Paradisets barn / The Children of Paradise #1) - 1980

After reading "Hanna's Daughters" and "Simon and the Oaks" by my name sister Marianne Fredriksson, I was happy to tackle another one of her books. This one is slightly different, although it only looks like this at first glance.

Eve - we all know Eve, you know, the wife of Adam, mother of Cain and Abel. Yes, THAT Eve! From Paradise. But we only know that she gave the forbidden fruit to Adam and is guilty of all the hardships we women have to bear. Otherwise, the bible is not very explicit about her life, neither before nor after being expelled from paradise.

This novel tells us what happens to Adam and Eve after they leave the Garden of Eden, how they lead their life, how they cope with the death of their son. Eve goes back to paradise where she meets the people she left. It's especially interesting after having read "Sapiens" and "The Good Book of Human Nature" where they compare the bible with the evolution.

So, Eve returns to her people who are hunters and gatherers whereas Adam and his family has started to become settlers and farmers. She also learns how to use plants for curing illnesses.
Quite an interesting story that tells us how our ancestors might have lived. I shall try to read the next two books in this "Children of Paradise" trilogy, "The Book of Cain" and "The Saga of Norea".

A thoroughly enjoyable read.

From the back cover:

"A fictional version of the biblical scenario of Adam and Eve, in which Eve leaves the family shortly after their son Cain murders his brother Abel. She travels out in the world in search of their origin and of knowledge about their existence.

This is the first published novel by Marianne Fredriksson and the first book in her trilogy 'The Children of Paradise'. It was later published in a collection volume with the same name, together with 'The Book of Cain' (book two) and 'The Saga of Norea' (book three)."

Friday 8 March 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"A parent or a teacher has only his lifetime; a good book can teach forever." Louis L’Amour

"Reading is a form of prayer, a guided meditation that briefly makes us believe we’re someone else, disrupting the delusion that we’re permanent and at the centre of the universe. Suddenly (we’re saved!) other people are real again, and we’re fond of them." George Saunders

"From the reader’s view, a poem is more demanding than prose." Mark Strand

"Books make your mind sharper. Life more exciting. Spirits higher. Stress levels lower. Heart more compassionate." N.N.

[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 7 March 2019

Murdoch, Iris "The Philosopher's Pupil"

Murdoch, Iris "The Philosopher's Pupil" - 1983

It is hard to describe this book. It starts with an accident. It involves several people from a small town but also some from far away. Whilst I liked the amount of characters and the different kind of relations, they had with each other, I couldn't really warm to them and there wasn't really a big story. You expect a sort of murder mystery but it's not that. It' also not too philosophical even though that subject gets touched all the time. It's not a love story, either.

A library book that I'm not sad to return. I might read this again in a couple of years trying to understand. On the other hand, there are plenty of stories I haven't read, yet, and others that really got me the first time around, so that might never happen.

I happily talk to someone who loved this book. It's not that I dislike it, I just can't find anything to really really like it, either.

From the back cover:

"In the English spa town of Ennistone, hot springs bubble up from deep beneath the earth. In these healing waters the townspeople seek health and regeneration, righteousness and ritual cleansing. To this town steeped in ancient lore and subterranean inspiration the Philosopher returns. He exerts an almost magical influence over a host of Ennistonians, and especially over George McCaffrey, the Philosopher's old pupil, a demonic man desperate for redemption."

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Fielding, Henry "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling"

Fielding, Henry "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling" - 1749

This book has been on my wishlist forever. One of the British classic authors that I hadn't "met", yet. And this is always mentioned as the first true novel ever written.

Actually, this could have been two books. One, the novel with the story about Tom Jones and his life. Two, the philosophical thoughts of Henry Fielding before every chapter.

While I usually enjoy reading about philosophy, I think in this case it rather distracted than added to the story. I could have done without it, didn't add anything to the story itself. I also couldn't find the humour that it claims to contain. And I love British humour but this must have been a different kind to the one we usually enjoy. The only other time this has happened to me was with "Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons.

This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book. The story itself was very interesting and gave us a great view of the society of the time, what was done and what wasn't, how many rights you had as a woman or even as a man if you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

So, all in all, an interesting read. But it won't be on my "read this again" list.

From the back cover:

"A foundling of mysterious parentage brought up by Mr. Allworthy on his country estate, Tom Jones is deeply in love with the seemingly unattainable Sophia Western, the beautiful daughter of the neighboring squire - though he sometimes succumbs to the charms of the local girls. When Tom is banished to make his own fortune and Sophia follows him to London to escape an arranged marriage, the adventure begins. A vivid Hogarthian panorama of eighteenth-century life, spiced with danger and intrigue, bawdy exuberance and good-natured authorial interjections, Tom Jones is one of the greatest and most ambitious comic novels in English literature."

Monday 4 March 2019

Bythell, Shaun "The Diary of a Bookseller"

Bythell, Shaun "The Diary of a Bookseller" - 2017

I read the first sentence on the back cover and knew I had to read this book:
"An elderly customer told me that her book club's next book was Dracula, but she couldn't remember what he'd written."

The book was just as hilarious as this remark. I had to laugh out loud a lot of times. Shaun Bythell is so sarcastic and has a great sense of humour. I loved that.

How a salesperson can keep their calm when faced with stupid questions or remarks is beyond me. Customers who think they own the place, rummage through the books and leave the shop after tossing the books they looked at anywhere and without buying anything.

Which book lover doesn't wish to work in a library or a book shop (although the latter can be disastrous to your finances). But do we really consider how much hard work it is? Just the moving, packing and unpacking of boxes with books is terrible for your back. And dealing with customers who don't treat books the way we think they are supposed to be treated?

I could totally relate with his frustrations about people who would browse in his shop but then order the books from amazon. Or those who haggle over the price. Or the frustrations with the Internet when it doesn't do what you think it should e doing (haven't we all been there?) Or with amazon when his sales sank again under a certain limit. And then the troubles with his staff who seem to live in their own world and totally ignore the ideas and wishes of the boss. What kind of world do they live in? If I'd behaved like that in any of the jobs I had, I probably would not have had it very long. Shaun Bythell seems to be a very kind employer.

I especially loved the stories about the books, how he went to people's houses when a loved one had died or they had to downsize. Wish we had second hand bookshops around here. I sort out my books from time to time and donate them to the library and I'm lucky that they are happy to take them. But still. Would be nice to make a little bit of money. And one of my personal highlights was when he shot the Kindle. Can't blame him.

But there are a lot of other funny stories in the book. Like when a customer asks for the restroom. Even though he had an American girlfriend at the time, neither he nor his assistant seemed to know what he meant, or so they claimed. So, the answer given was "There is a comfy seat by the fire if you need a rest." Americans, beware! When you come to Europe and are looking for the toilet, say it like it is, nobody here calls them bathroom or restroom or whatever. I remember a British friend on being asked for her bathroom thinking whether the person wanted to take a bath. LOL

I also loved the idea of the Random Book Club where he sends you just a random used book once a month. Unfortunately, it is full at the moment, otherwise I would have joined right away.

I am sure this is on my list of places to see when we will visit Scotland the next time. There are two things I definitely want to see:the shot and mounted Kindle and the Festival bed. And there is one thing the author doesn't have to be afraid of once I've entered the shop: I will definitely buy something and I will put every book back on its right place that I have touched. I always do that, so it won't make any difference.

One last thing, I appreciated all the books he mentioned, would have loved a list at the end because there were so many that it was impossible to keep track. And there were lots of other things I appreciated like when he mentions that "older Gallovidians refer to [bats] as'flittermice', probably something that fans of operetta would recognise." Well, in Germany, everyone would recognize it because the German word for bat is "Fledermaus".

This book definitely gets 5 stars from me. ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

From the back cover:

"Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown - Scotland's largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover's paradise? Well, almost ... In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye."

Friday 1 March 2019

Happy March!

Happy March to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Riding the Waves "

March is usually greeted with happy feelings. Finally spring. At least for most of us. 

The meteorological beginning of spring takes place on the 1st of March, on the 20th, the March equinox is the astronomical beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Saxons used to call it Lentmonat, Monat being the German word for month.

The first flowers bloom in our garden: snowdrops, spring snowflakes and crocus. Always lovely. Soon, the first daffodils will follow. 

Which brings us to the flower of the month. It stands for rebirth, domestic happiness but also vanity. In Victorian England, daffodils represented chivalry, in the language of love regard and egotism. Quite contrary meanings, don't you think? 

The daffodil is the national flower of Wales and is used as the symbol for cancer charities. 

In German, we call the daffodil either "Narzisse" (after the Latin word narcissus) or "Osterblume" or "Osterglocke" (which means Easter flower or Easter bell). In the UK, they are also known as Lenten lilies. 

Enjoy this month with this beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch.

You can find many more wonderful pictures on their website here.